Australia and global media attention required – Muckaty radioactive waste plans court case.


Given the proven record of a systematic and sustained pattern of abuse of Australia’s First Peoples, the plan by Commonwealth of Australia’s plan to use Warlmanpa speaking peoples country in the Northern Territory as the first site for a radioactive waste facility requires that it is exposed to the very highest level of public scrutiny.

One highly credible scenario is that, once a low-level radioactive waste business is commenced, the short-term profit seeking plans of those in the uranium industry will – one way and another – convert this deleted uranium tipped thin-edge of the wedge into a site for the storage of long-term radioactive waste of uranium mined in Australia and ‘leased’ overseas.

Despite the official denials, we can be sure that clever business people in remote Board rooms are presently working out how to implement these plans. Major markets for Australian uranium energy abound – India, China, Indonesia etc. We have recently seen the corrupt links between business and mainstream political party funding. Easy peasy.

The record for our form of society’s use of radioactive materials has demonstrated that we lack the maturity (and technology) required to properly handle this otherwise wonderful material. There is little prospect of real social change in the near, intermediate or long-term future which would enable us to properly handle radioactive energy.

The use of First Peoples country for the storage of radioactive waste would set up the potential for radioactive contamination of First Peoples country for, in effect, the rest of eternity.


The present plan is for a low-level and intermediate level radioactive waste facility to be located on Warlmanpa land – also held under the title provided by the 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act – and known generally by the cattle station/pastoral lease name of ‘Muckaty’.

Muckaty is located about 100km north of the town of Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory of Australia. The NT is a self-governing Territory of the Commonwealth of Australia, and, where necessary, subject to the powers and legislation of the Federal Parliament.

The Muckaty radioactive waste facility comes about as a result of a Federal (Howard Government) Act. This Act was replaced in part by the Rudd government’s Act, which is still in force under the “Australia is open for business” Abbott government.

The previous history of the Commonwealth government seeking a site for radioactive waste ran into problems from a State government (South Australia). The Northern Territory – not being a State – does not present this level of difficulty.

These pieces of Commonwealth legislation were designed, in part, to remove other forms of protection which had been built into, for example, the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act.

Basically, seeking a patina of respectability and legitimacy, the workings of these unconscionable pieces of legislation require a site for the proposed radioactive waste facility to have been volunteered by indigenous traditional owners.

Faced with crippling poverty and extremely limited prospects for the future, one small group of Warlmanpa people took up the offer, via the Northern Land Council, to nominate a site in return for – it is reported – a mere $12 million dollars. Less than a dollar per Australian to solve the nation’s radioactive storage problem. The life of the facility is said to be measured in terms of hundreds of years.

The Commonwealth legislation was framed in terms of the obsolete notions of indigenous land tenure enshrined in the 1976 definition of ‘traditional Aboriginal owner’. In exercising its duty of care, the Northern Land Council had identified a small group of Warlmanpa people who they (the NLC) assert comply with the legislative requirements as members of a ‘local descent group’.

The Warlmanpa people nominating the site are said to be ‘local descent group’ which is a smaller segment of the ‘local descent group’ as found by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Gray J, when he heard a traditional land claim to the Muckaty Pastoral lease in the 1990s. His formal findings were reported to Parliament.


Other Warlmanpa people who have links to the country at ‘Muckaty’ have contested the claim by the nominating group. They have commenced a court case in the Federal Court of Australia. The case is known as “VID433/2010 Title: Mark Lane Jangala v Commonwealth of Australia & Anor”. Both the Commonwealth of Australia and the Northern Land Council are respondents in the case.

The case of the Warlmanpa people opposing the nomination is being conducted for them pro bono by Maurice Blackburn lawyers, and it was lodged in 2010. After a long process, including the change to the Federal legislation under the Rudd government, the formal Federal Court Hearing is set to commence under Justice North in June 2014.

Sittings will be conducted in Melbourne (where the case was lodged due to that city being the location of relevant part of Maurice Blackburn lawyers), Tennant Creek (NT) and Darwin. (See April 2014 Federal Court Orders now posted to


It is extremely difficult for interested members of the public to follow what is happening the the Melbourne Federal Court.

The legal and anthropological issues involved in the case are complex and demanding to stay abreast of, let alone get on top of. The lack of good information about what is actually happening makes it even harder to try and get a handle on what’s happening with this case.

Unless you live in Melbourne it is not possible to attend the many Directions and Interlocutory Hearings with Justice North in the Federal Court,

There is no broadcast of proceedings and the privatised cost of written transcripts is completely prohibitive. Important documents are handed up in written form and are not available to members of the public. Following proceedings is virtually impossible.

The major players – like the Northern Land Council – are quick to invoke the cloak of commerical-in-confidence. It is not easy to gain good information about this case.

As an interested member of the public I just tried to find out, from the Federal Court, the answer to the simplest of questions – – would the Court be sitting in Tennant Creek on 9 June as that is a statutory public holiday (Queen’s Birthday) – only to be given a non-answer (see earlier songlines blog posting).

From Minister’s of the Crown down, there is a very high-handed attitude at work in relation to us non-professional stakeholders – members of the public.

The Tennant Creek Federal Court sitting dates information is important to me as I am hoping to be able to travel to Tennant Creek for a week in June to listen to (and report on) any part of the proceedings open to the general pubic. Lacking any budget (let alone the lavish legal profession/bureaucrat travel allowance funding) – it makes a real different to me to know if I need to aim to be in Tennant Creek on Sunday or Monday.

Our stake in both the protection of First Peoples and potentially radioactive futures (for us all) is equally real to those who measure and deem things as significant only when they have been blessed by large amounts of money.

Some properly resourced and funded reporters are required to do justice to the challenge of accurately reporting this case to the wider public.

There has been very little real media coverage of this fundamentally important court case. Maurice Blackburn lawyers have put out a few media releases, which cover the barest of details. Beyond Nuclear Initiative has also been active in providing information in connection with those opposed to the Muckaty radioactive waste site. There have been a few media reports, none of which I find come to real grips with the more subtle issues.

But much more needs to be done over the coming months – both within Australia and overseas.

What is urgently required is to ensure that this vitally important case – avoiding hot radioactive future for First Peoples – is subject to competent and comprehensive coverage in the mainstream and alternative media as it unfolds in June.

The light of day provided by public attention is the only effective counterbalance to the highly effective use of concentrated power within de facto and de jure restricted proceedings.

For my small part, watch this space.

Bruce Reyburn

Latest (April 2014) Fed Court Orders in Muckaty radioactive case.

Check Federal Court for authoritative version as some details and formatting may be lost in copying – Songlines.


Order Entered

​No: (P)VID433/2010
Federal Court of Australia
District Registry: Victoria
Division: General

MARK LANE JANGALA and others named in the schedule

COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA and another named in the schedule


JUDGE: Justice North
DATE OF ORDER: 7 April 2014
WHERE MADE: Melbourne


Outlines of evidence

1. Commencing on 9 April and no later than 14 April 2014, the applicants file and serve:

(a)​ an outline of evidence of each witness they propose to call which gives the respondents notice of the substance of the proposed evidence of that witness;

(b)​ a copy of each photograph or other document (appropriately captioned or described) which they propose to tender or refer to in the evidence of that witness and which has not been discovered in these proceedings.

2. On or before 12 May 2014, each respondent file and serve:

(a) ​an outline of evidence of each witness it proposes to call which gives the applicants notice of the substance of the proposed evidence of that witness;

(b)​ a copy of each photograph or other document (appropriately captioned or described) which it proposes to tender or refer to in the evidence of that witness and which has not been discovered in these proceedings.

3. In respect of all witnesses from whom an outline of evidence is filed and served pursuant to Order 1 or Order 2, subject to agreement between the parties or further order, their evidence at trial be given orally.


4. Subject to the Court being able to make appropriate arrangements, the matter be listed for hearing on the following timetable:

2 – 6 June 2014​ opening submissions in Melbourne

9 – 13 June 2014​ witness evidence Tennant Creek

16 – 17 June 2014​ witness evidence Tennant Creek

19 – 20 June 2014​ witness evidence Darwin

23 – 27 June 2014​ witness evidence Darwin

30 June – 4 July 2014​ witness evidence Darwin

Documentary evidence

5. On or before 21 April 2014, the applicants serve a draft index of the documents or parts of documents that it intends to rely upon.

6. On or before 12 May 2014, the respondents serve the draft index referred to in Order 5 marked up to include reference to any additional documents or parts of documents that any of them intends to rely upon.

7. On or before 26 May 2014, the applicants file and serve an index that includes reference to all of the documents referred to in compliance with Orders 5 and 6 and in relation to each document identifies the party or parties seeking to rely upon it, together with a set of the evidence referred to in the index (Tender Bundle).

8. Subject to any objections made pursuant to Order 9 and subject to any submissions of the parties as to the weight to be attached to those documents or parts of documents, the documents in the Tender Bundle be received as evidence.

9. On or before 26 May 2014, any party who seeks to object to the receipt of any evidence contained in the Tender Bundle file and serve notice of objection identifying each part of the Tender Bundle to which it objects and stating briefly the grounds of each such objection.

Interlocutory Application

10. The interlocutory application filed by the first and third respondents on 2 December 2014 be adjourned to 2 June 2014.

Date that entry is stamped: 10 April 2014

(for) Deputy District Registrar

​No: (P)VID433/2010
Federal Court of Australia
District Registry: Victoria
Division: General

Second Applicant:​LORNA FEJO NANGALA
Third Applicant:​DICK FOSTER
Fourth Applicant:​RONALD BROWN


Good example of how hard it is to get info re Muckaty radioactive court case

My email:

Hi Vic Federal Court Registry,

Re: VID433/2010 Title: Mark Lane Jangala v Commonwealth of Australia & Anor

Two questions.

1. Has Justice North issued any Orders resulting from Directions and Interlocutory Hearing on 7 April 2014?

Please advise as none are shown on your website (as yet).

2. Court sitting in Tennant Creek (NT) and Queen’s Birthday holiday.

I understand that His Honour is proposing that the Court will commence taking evidence in Tennant Creek on Monday 9 June. I also understand that that day is the Queen’s Birthday public holiday in the NT. See

Does His Honour intend to conduct any public formal court process on that day (Monday 9 June) in Tennant Creek?


Bruce Reyburn

Reply from Victorian Federal Court Registry:

Dear Sir

Thank you for your email.

The outcome of the listing before Justice North on 7 April 2014 will be available on the Commonwealth Courts Portal in due course.

Listing dates and procedural aspects for the conduct of the hearing will be determined in consultation with the parties to the proceeding.

Yours faithfully

Client Services

Victoria Registry

Federal Court to take evidence in Tennant Creek in Muckaty radioactive waste case

Muckaty radioactive waste facility update from Direction’s Hearing in Federal Court, Melbourne. While the sitting dates appear on their website the formal court orders have not yet been posted ( Wednesday morning 9 April, 2014).

Here is a report from Nat Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative Coordinator.

“Hi everyone,

Proceedings have wrapped up from Monday’s Muckaty directions hearing in the case Jangala & Ors v Cth & Ors.

The proposed schedule for the full court trial in June is below; please note this is subject to alteration pending arrangements being made in each location.

Proposed schedule of locations for Jangala & Ors v Cth & Ors.
June 2-6: Melbourne
June 9-17: Tennant Creek
June 19-July 4: Darwin
Further evidence may also be taken at a later date in Melbourne.

“It is very welcome that the court has ordered evidence be taken in Tennant Creek, allowing more people from the affected community to attend the proceedings. It is appropriate and important that evidence relating to the land and people’s connection to the Muckaty area is heard on that country”

Natalie Wasley
Beyond Nuclear Initiative coordinator

Beyond Nuclear Initiative”;

(Nat’s message ends)

PLUS – good info regarding present situation and case from the “opposed to facility” viewpoint on CAAMA radio interview (9 mins).

Note that one group of traditional owners at Muckaty have given their consent for the radioactive waste repository, hence the Federal Court case by those traditional owners opposed to it.

CAAMA (Alice Springs) radio interview on update 10 minutes

Call to end Muckaty as proposed nuclear waste facility site

Media release | March 13, 2014

Renewed call for Muckaty dump plan to be scrapped as ‘draconian’ nuclear waste legislation hits two-year mark.

Marking two years since passage of the National Radioactive Waste Management Act (NRWMA), Traditional Owners and supporters have renewed calls for the government to drop plans for locating the first national radioactive waste dump at Muckaty, 120km north of Tennant Creek in the NT.

Beyond Nuclear Initiative convenor Natalie Wasley said, “The National Radioactive Waste Management Act is draconian and gives the Minister absolute discretion in key aspects of radioactive waste management. It overrides any state or territory law that would ‘hinder’ the plan, and limits the application of environmental protection laws, Aboriginal heritage protection legislation, and appeal rights. It does not grant ‘procedural fairness’ in relation to the existing Muckaty nomination.”

“Radioactive waste management laws should require engagement with civil society stakeholders in line with international standards. Australia’s targeting of remote communities considered politicially expedient through application of draconian legislation like the NRWMA is an international embarrassment.”

Traditional Owner Penny Phillips said “

We had very hurt feelings when the legislation passed the Senate two years ago. We had been saying no for a long time- my old aunty Bunny Nabarula cried her heart out. People are upset that the new government is pushing ahead, but we are not going to stop fighting. We want the government to put a full stop to the nomination.”

“If the Northern Land Council prepares another nomination on Muckaty then we will stand up to them again. This country is very important to us. We also want people to remember the transport accidents that have happened on the road and rail in the NT. If the waste travels a long way, then any of those areas could be affected.”

Ms Wasley added, “Muckaty is the only site currently under consideration but the community is not being left to fight the proposal themselves. The Public Health Association of Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and other national groups are calling for the proposal to be dropped in favour of an independent Commission to examine all options radioactive waste management. A federal court trial challenging the site nomination will be heard throughout June.” added Ms Wasley.

Ms Phillips concluded “

Minister MacFarlane said he will visit Tennant Creek and meet with us. It is time for him to see the country and learn why we are saying no. People are getting tired, especially the old people, but we all work together and we haven’t backed down, we are still strong against it and will keep going until the Muckaty plan is stopped.”

Beyond Nuclear Initiative

Note on legal proceedings: The federal court challenge to the nomination of the Muckaty site will be heard throughout June 2014. The next directions hearing is scheduled for March 28 in the Victorian Federal Court.

Muckaty radioactive waste case – Federal Court docs lodged 2014

File details

Court: Federal Court of Australia, Victoria Registry
Number: VID433/2010
Title: Mark Lane Jangala v Commonwealth of Australia & Anor

26-Feb-2014 Amended Document Northern Land Council
26-Feb-2014 Amended Document Commonwealth Of Australia
19-Feb-2014 Expert Report(s) Northern Land Council
19-Feb-2014 Expert Report(s) Northern Land Council
18-Feb-2014 Expert Report(s) Northern Land Council
18-Feb-2014 Amended Document Lorna Fejo Nangala
18-Feb-2014 Amended Document Lorna Fejo Nangala
28-Jan-2014 Outline of Submissions Commonwealth Of Australia
28-Jan-2014 Outline of Submissions Northern Land Council

(Information taken from Federal Court Website – check there for proper details).

Listen to these audio treats – four tracks of the real thing

From SMH

Voices from the grave: songs from dying languages

“Performed by one or two men to the accompaniment of a didgeridoo and dancers with clap sticks, wangga is the subject of a new book, For the Sake of a Song: Wangga Songmen and their Repertories.”